Tuesday 5 April 2011

Thinning-out the seedlings

The little seedlings under my new cloches are growing very rapidly. I am very pleased with the cloches so far - the seeds germinated much more rapidly under them, and the germination rate looks good. So good in fact that I have already had to thin them out. I always sow seeds quite thickly, and then thin the seedlings when they are a couple of inches tall. This is an appropriate approach for me in my very small garden, but in a bigger plot - say an allotment - this might not be the best way to do it, because it is unavoidably quite labour-intensive.

Today I removed the cloches one by one, watered the soil beneath them to minimise root disturbance for the little plants, and then removed by hand a number of the seedlings, creating suitable gaps between the ones left behind. These are the beetroot:-

My pictures are taken at the "Before" stage, and the seedlings are obviously too closely-spaced.  Eventually there will need to be perhaps 5 or 6cm between plants in the case of beetroot, and more, perhaps 8 - 10cm, in the case of Parsnips. You need to give the plants enough space to develop, such that the mature roots are not touching each other. Referring to the Beetroot plants in the photo above, I would remove about two in every three.

As I went down the rows removing seedlings I collected the thinnings in a pot-saucer and eventually put them in a compost bin. This avoids leaving them around to attract slugs. I think that removing the seedlings, which inevitably involves a little bit of damage to them, probably releases a strong aroma which attracts all the beasties for miles around. When I have finished the thinning I give the plants another watering, just to ensure they are firmly in place, and to assist with recovering from any "shock" they may have experienced when the soil around them was disturbed.

As well as the beetroot, I thinned the Parsnips and the Hamburg Parsley. The tiny seedlings look quite similar.  One of the advantages of sowing your seeds in stright rows is that when they come up you can more easily differentiate between them and the inevitable weed seedlings. This is Hamburg Parsley, which has quite narrow leaves:

And these are Parsnips, with wider leaves:

I will have a second go at this in a couple of weeks' time, when I see which seedlings are the strongest.

If the weather forecast is to be believed we are due to get temperatures up to 21C in the next few days, so I might have to consider removing the cloches to ensure the seedlings don't get TOO warm!


Charity appeal.
Would any of my regular readers like to do me a favour by sponsoring my daughter to run a Marathon? My younger daughter Fiona is running in the Paris Marathon this coming weekend. She will be putting herself through all the pain in aid of a good cause - she is trying to raise £1000 for the charity Oxfam, which helps homeless and disadvantaged people all over the world. I'd be very proud of Fiona if (when) she completes the course, and even more proud if she meets her financial target. If any of you could spare a few quid, I'm sure Oxfam (and Fiona) would be very grateful... Here's a link to her JustGiving site. Donations can be made in any currency you like - JustGiving sorts it all out for you. Thanks! :)


  1. So many seedlings. I always wonder when I look at veggie blogs, what do you do with all the excess. Even our small patch seems to produce more than we can consume at one time. Do you give it away? Do you trade with neighbours? Do you freeze it?
    P.S. Good luck to Fiona - popping over to her site now.

  2. I love when everything grow in the garden.
    I like your green house.

  3. Garden Girl: I do sometimes give away the spare seedlings to friends and relatives, but I'm afraid that some of them also do end up in the compost bin! One of my friends takes spare plants for sale at an hospital fete each June, to help raise funds, so some of them go there.
    I seldom grow so much of anything that I need to freeze it. The exceptions are Runner Beans and Tomatoes, which we sometimes freeze some of.
    [Thanks for the donation to Fiona's charity fund-raising!]

  4. These photos look just like my garden in its early stages! I simply *hate* thinning seedlings. But I know it is necessary. Best wishes for these little babies as they grow!

  5. Not in the compost! Those poor seedlings! :p I am a complete sap and would make extra rows for the ones I pulled out.

  6. I too many eggplant seedlings so they went the way of the compost Next time i will only plant twice as much as I need.

  7. Must admit we don't think out much at all - jut allow the plants to battle it out although we grow most of our stuff in cells and plant out - not carrots or parsnips of course but certainly beetroot.

  8. That certainly look like you have 100% germination rate. Like Kat I can't throw the thinnings out. Won't sleep a wink at night.

  9. Like Diane, the thinning out stage upsets me, although I know it needs doing. For our first Beetroot sowings I don't bother, I sow in little 'clumps' to get bunches of small, sweet early beets.
    I like that you gave the tip about watering the survivors to mske them more secure :)
    Good luck to Fiona in her Charity Marathon.

  10. Lovely neat rows Mark, but I think you may be right about needing to take them off for the next few days - and then quickly putting them back on when we get the inevitable cold snap to keep us all on our toes...

  11. Mark

    thanks for the image of Hamburg parsley, most useful as I have been checking for seedlings having sown Hamburg Parsley for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and not much through yet compared to the parsnips sown at the same time. What is your experience of germination rates/times compared to parsnips, or am I just being impatient?

    and how big is your veg plot to be sowing all those varieties of climbing bean!

  12. Martin; This is the first time I have grown Hamburg Parsley, so I have no previous experience! Mine has germinated very well though. They came up in about the same time as the parsnips. Re the beans: I don't have much space - I am planning to grow all 9 varieties in only one of my raised beds (1 x 2.4 metres), but I will only plant a few of each. I just love having lots of different types!


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